Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. Galatians 1:6

That so-called Bible religion in our times is suffering rapid decline is so evident as to need no proof. I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians. The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among the leaders. How can there be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight? Surely one of the greatest needs is the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic insight. Unless they come soon, it will be too late for this generation. A. W. Tozer

Someone once remarked that listening to A. W. Tozer was like opening the door of a blast furnace. He had a passion for Jesus Christ and his truth. He did not mince his words when declaring the holiness of God and man’s need of God’s mercy. Those who went to hear him did not go to build their self-esteem. They went to be confronted by a prophet who was committed to declaring the full counsel of God, no matter how unpopular or discomforting it was to those who listened. God’s glory and man’s eternal welfare were at stake.

Prophets are not popular. They go against what the masses seem to like. They seem harsh and out of step. They are called insensitive, divisive and worse. But, the Church desperately needs them. In every age cults are birthed that take away from the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They either take away or add to what God has revealed in the Bible. Usually they are led by gifted and charismatic leaders who have discovered something “new” and “vital” that the “established church” have failed to see and practice. These new movements seem so right and wonderful that even leaders jump into the flow of their pull. But, exciting and alluring promises only hide the destructive hooks that will drag them away with their sincere but confused congregations. That is why Tozer writes of the desperate need for men and women with spiritual insight and the boldness to speak hard truth.

Dr. Walter Martin [1928-1989]. A renowned authority on religious cults having their origin in the United States, described a cult as “a group of people polarized around someone’s interpretation of the Bible and is characterized by major deviations from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith.” A dangerous cult that is sweeping through the church is the Emergent Church movement, led by Bruce McLaren. In his book, A Generous Orthodoxy,” he attempts to correct the western Church’s focus upon propositional truth and its emphasis upon conformity to its way of belief. Believing we need to adjust to a postmodern world that elevates experience over truth, he advocates a much softer and accepting “gospel.”

In a second book, “The Secret Teachings of Jesus,” he tries to demonstrate how the Church has never really understood the real message of Jesus. McLaren enlightens us by writing that our big mistake was our failure to see the that the Gospel is Not actually “justification by grace through faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ being a substitutionary sacrifice for [one’s] sin.” Instead McLarem reveals that “the kingdom of God is at hand” was Jesus’ real message. That “kingdom” is much wider than the Church has preached according to McLaren. He writes in “A Generous Orthodoxy”, that “Jesus’ secret message in word and deed makes clear the kingdom will be radically, scandalously inclusive.”

In order for the church to fit into McLaren’s “inclusive model, the hard truths of the Scriptures are set aside for the more accepting forms of community. He explains, “We feel that there’s got to be a lot more humility and a lot more gentleness and that the Gospel is made credible not by how we argue and make truth claims. But it’s made credible by the love and the good deeds that flow from our lives and our community.” On the surface that sounds so right and loving, until you discover what is lost in the exchange: Biblical Truth.

To show you how McLaren uses vague language to water down and pushed aside the propositional truth of the Scriptures, I offer these quotations:

Preaching: The declaration of ultimate truth is seen as arrogant and ineffective. “Those of us in the west now … realize that there were a lot of bad consequences of European and American people trying to tell everybody else how things are….A generous orthodoxy, in contrast to the tense, narrow, controlling, or critical orthodoxies of so much of Christian history, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is humble; it doesn’t claim too much…”

The cross: When asked whether a person must trust Christ as dying to make atonement for sin in order to be a Christian, McLaren replied, “I want to help people understand everything they can about the cross. … I wouldn’t say that having that understanding (Jesus dying as a substitute for sinful humanity) is all that it means to be a Christian. I think that some people might have that understanding and not be interested in following Jesus. They want Jesus’ blood to pay for their sins so they can go to heaven, but they aren’t really interested in following Jesus in this life.” Here, McLaren, subtly but surely, shifts the focus of salvation from deliverance from God’s wrath to bringing justice on the earth.

Homosexuality: McLaren declined to give his opinion on the morality of homosexuality, saying that the issue has become inappropriately political.”I have my own opinions, but I don’t believe that the smartest thing for me to do is to go around and make those varying opinions a reason to separate myself from other Christians,” he said. “I fellowship with Christians who have a diversity of opinion of this (homosexuality).”

Truth: “How do you know if something is true? First, you engage in spiritual practices like prayer, Bible reading, forgiveness, and service. Then you see what happens; you remain open to experience. Finally, you report your experience to others in the field of spirituality for their discernment, to see if they confirm your findings or not.” For McLaren, The Word is not true in itself. It is only true as it “works” in our personal experience.

The authority of Scripture: Scripture is not God’s declaration of truth but a mixture of man’s and God’s ideas. “Scripture is something God had ‘let be,’ and so it is at once God’s creation and the creation of the dozens of people and communities and cultures who produced it.” Rather than being God’s commands, to be known and obeyed, they are a product of God working through communities and so are they subject to interpretation by those communities.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., sees McLaren and the other leaders of the Emergent Church to be a “a significant challenge to biblical Christianity.” He then explains why: “The worldview of postmodernism — complete with an epistemology that denies the possibility of or need for propositional truth — affords the movement an opportunity to hop, skip and jump throughout the Bible and the history Christian thought in order to take whatever pieces they want from one theology and attach them, like doctrinal post-it notes, to whatever picture they would want to draw.”

Every cult attacks the truth of the Scriptures. It falls in line with the devil’s prime strategy by saying, “Hath God said?” The holding fast to, and the bold proclamation of the truth of Christ, as written in the Scriptures, is the power that opens eyes and softens hearts so that the glory of Christ is discovered and delighted in. Soft words and warm accepting environments are not bad in themselves, but they will never reveal and humble the hard hearts of sinful rebels. John Piper says it well when he writes,    

“If there were no great evils and no deaf hearts and no eternal consequences, perhaps the only fitting forms of love would be a soft touch and tender words. But such a world does not kill the Son of God and hate his disciples, there is no such world.”

It is always surprising how church leaders are so easily swayed by the “soft touch and tender words” of men like McLaren. I think Paul would agree and say something like, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-8. And, I also think that these words would seem rather hard to us who have been raised in such a soft world: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him e eternally condemned!” Galatians 1:8-9  

But, truth matters! We will be deceived by an “angel of light” if we do not develop biblically controlled, discerning minds. God grant that he would raise up a whole new tribe of prophets like A. W. Tozer, who hold fast to the truth and are not intimidated into silence by the soft sounding words of men like Bruce McLaren.   

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:  By Dr. Gary Rieben.  © Give Me That Book.  Email:  Website:  Postal:  GMTB | P.O. Box 1045 | La Quinta, Ca 92247 | 619.829.2390